Muay Thai vs Judo — Which One is Better in 2021?

We are not sure if Muay Thai and Judo share a single thing in common. These two arts differ a lot from one another when it comes to all aspects of fighting. But at the same time, they are among the best when it comes to the elements of fighting they are covering. But which one is better between Muay Thai vs Judo?

This is a classic grappling vs striking with each one having pros and cons. Judo is entirely based on grappling and the main goal is to use throws to take the fight to the ground. Muay Thai, on the other side, is often seen as the best striking art that certainly has the highest damage per strike ratio. It will teach you all about punches, kicks, and elbow and knee strikes.

To find out which one is better, we must see how they differ from one another first. Then, we can find out which is better for self-defense, MMA, or fitness.

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Muay Thai vs Judo — what are the main differences?

Since these two arts differ a lot in just about every aspect, we’ll take a brief look into the main differences. Here is all you need to know about Muay Thai vs Judo.

History and origins

Muay Thai is an older style of the two as its earliest records come from the Siam Kingdom in the 16th century. It is a national sport in Thailand and even a part of their culture and way of living to some extent. In the western world, it started to rise from the 1950s and it is spread all around the world. But the sport has really exploded with the birth of MMA where it plays a key role.

Founded by the great Jigoro Kano in 1882, Judo is an art that comes from Japan. It has its origins in Jujutsu and has been a precursor to many modern arts like BJJ and Sambo for instance. It is among the most popular grappling arts in the world and it has been a part of the Olympic Games since 1964.

Emphasis and techniques

Muay Thai is a striking-based fighting style that teaches you how to use all limbs as weapons. Students learn to fight from both stances using kicks, punches, knees, and elbows. The emphasis is on fast and hard kicks and fighting in the “Thai clinch” using elbows and knees. Training also includes the basics of grappling like trips and throws, but those skills don’t play a big factor.

Judo, on the other side, differs a lot as it is entirely based on grappling and ground fighting. On the feet, students learn how to secure a strong grip and execute powerful throws to take the fight to the ground. Once there, they learn how to apply chokes, pins, and joint locks to subdue the opponent. But the emphasis of the art is on throws and trips in the standup.


Muay Thai vs Judo — which one is better for self-defense?

Both of these arts are good for self-defense and deciding which one is better is not an easy task. But we must say we lean more towards Judo when it comes to self-defense, and here is why.

First of all, fighting on the streets is often chaotic and can happen in various places like a room, bar, or parking lot. These fights do not look like a pro boxing or MMA matches where we have skilled athletes. No, street fights are often chaotic, all over the place, include a lot of grabbing, pulling, and wild striking.

These are the types of scenarios where Judo can help you more than Muay Thai if you ask us. Judo teaches you how to close the distance, get the hold of the opponent and throw them down to the ground. A skilled judoka needs to grab just a single part of your body and you are going for a ride down. Even if the attacker is a skilled striker, they are not trained how to defend against grapplers.

You see, every human being has a puncher’s chance on the feet. But what most average people don’t know is how to grapple as ground fighting is not as natural as striking. Grappling and ground fighting is all about leverage and technic and you have to spend many years training arts like Judo to know how to defend.

Muay Thai is also great for self-defense and will teach you how to fight at all ranges on the feet. It is all about power and damage which is great because it allows you to finish the opponent fast. 

But Judo allows you to deal with the attacker using safer methods rather than making a bloody mess using strikes.

muay thai training with head gear

Muay Thai vs Judo — which one is better for MMA?

Muay Thai plays a much bigger role in modern MMA fighting than Judo and the argument is really strong. This is mainly because Muay Thai is, perhaps, the best striking style for MMA and you need these skills to fight on the feet. When it comes to grappling and ground fighting, judo skills are also very good. But, some other arts like BJJ and wrestling work much better, and here is why.

Judo puts too much emphasis on standup grappling where judokas use throws and trips. This is mainly due to the Judo rules where throws bring you the most points. Although it is a part of training, judo puts far less emphasis on ground fighting.

On the other side, other arts like BJJ work much better in MMA. This is notably true for the “No Gi” form of BJJ. It teaches you the same throws you can find in judo, and it is far better and versatile when it comes to ground fighting. Wrestling and BJJ simply fit much better within the concept of MMA than judo.

On the other side, Muay Thai is often seen as complete striking art that fits well within the rules of MMA. It teaches you how to land hard kicks from the distance, fight at close range or against the fence in the clinch, or keep your range using footwork. We can even say you can’t succeed in MMA without, at least, basic Muay Thai skills.

Muay Thai vs Judo — which one is better for fitness and weight loss?

Both of these arts offer you great workouts and will improve every single muscle in your body. Still, we have to go with Muay Thai when it comes to fitness and weight loss. It should be your option if you want to train in martial arts to lose some weight or improve strength.

First of all, we can see more and more people joining Muay Thai gyms in recent years. Most modern gyms, notably in the west, operate according to the standards of modern life. They offer individual classes, cardio sessions, and various other features. You can adapt your training to your goals which don’t have to be learning how to fight. This type of concept of training is more attractive to average people who often fall in love with Muay Thai.

And Muay Thai gets even better when it comes to the benefits of training. For instance, a single class can burn up to 800–1000 calories which is a lot. It burns even more than some average cardio programs that focus on weight loss. And we don’t have to bring up that this is a reason why we can see so many women joining the gyms as well.

Muay Thai will get your body in tip-top shape after just a few months of training. The only thing you need is to stay consistent and work hard.

Judokas, on the other side, are among the strongest people on the planet for a reason. This type of fighting style is all about balance, core strength, being flexible, and they are all very, very strong. But still, we believe Muay Thai is better for average people who are looking for a hard fitness workout.

Muay Thai Fitness

Is Muay Thai and Judo a good combination?

Training in both Muay Thai and Judo is a very good mix. This is a classic grappling and striking combo that will make you an all-around fighter. It trains you for any type of fighting you may face on the streets, and it’s also a great combo for MMA fighting as well. You will become a fighter with amazing striking skills and an insane clinch game. 

Muay Thai is all about striking and perhaps the best when it comes to this aspect of fighting. But what its fighters really miss is the grappling game and how to stop takedowns or fight on the ground. Training in Judo allows them to learn how to defend against throws and stop takedowns. Even if the fight hits the ground, judo will teach them how to get back up using sweeps and escapes. And for last, it’s always good to know how to defend against chokes and joint locks in MMA.

Judokas, on the other side, can benefit a lot from Muay Thai training. You see, judo training doesn’t include any type of striking as the art focuses only on grappling. Muay Thai training helps them develop perhaps the best striking skills in the world. They will learn how to land each strike with huge power, check kicks, and block punches. This is great for judokas as they can use striking skills to set up their grappling attacks and be more unpredictable.

As we can see, Muay Thai and Judo complement each other in many ways. But bear in mind that training in both arts asks for a lot of time, sacrifice, and hard work.

Can a Judo fighter beat a Muay Thai fighter in a street fight and vice versa?

For sure, fighters from both of these arts have all the tools to beat each other in a street fight. But since they differ a lot, the winner would be a fighter who manages to impose their will. And who would win really depends on what type of fight we are talking about?

Judo fighters have a big advantage if the fight is in a small space like a room, bar, or a hall. Muay Thai fighters won’t have a space to use footwork and kicks to keep their range and distance. Once a judoka gets a hold of them, most strikers would go for a ride down because they don’t know how to defend takedowns. No matter how big or strong you are, striking doesn’t prepare you for grappling which is all about leverage and technic.

The chances of Muay Thai fighters beating Judo fighters rise if we are talking about the fight in the open. They can use footwork to stay at distance from which they can do huge damage with kicks and punches. A single well-placed kick in Muay Thai can generate the same power as hitting a person with a baseball bat. Now imagine how painful it would be for a judoka, who has never been kicked before, to receive one. You will see them crumble down to the ground after the first one. They can also catch judo fighters coming in with an uppercut, knee, or a wild elbow strike.

Muay Thai vs Judo – Which one is better for you?

Muay Thai is the best when it comes to striking while Judo is among the most effective grappling arts. So which one is better for you really comes down to your personal preference. Do you like striking more than grappling? Do you have any intend of shifting to MMA later? Here is our opinion that can help you make a right choice. 

Muay Thai should be your option if you like striking and want to learn how to use the entire body as a weapon. It is among the best styles when it comes to self-defense, and its techniques fit well within the rules of MMA. It’s really easy to make a transition from Muay Thai to MMA if you want. And for last, it’s great for fitness and weight loss as each session burns a lot of calories. 

Judo, on the other side, is for people who want to learn all about grappling. It is maybe better than Muay Thai for self-defense, notably when it comes to fighting at close range. Although Muay Thai burns more calories, Judo is better in our opinion when it comes to improving core strength and balance.

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Sawasdee krap!
I'm Timmy and I'm the chief-editor and co-founder of Muay Thai Street. When do you don't see me kicking pads of heavy bags, you can also find me training BJJ and functional fitness. I created Muay Thai Street as a passion project and also to help grow the community and share this sport with the world.

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